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Fought-for freedom is the key to human rights

Today, at 11 a.m., I’ll bow my head and remember the men and women who have given their lives to this nation in war.

Today, at 11 a.m., I’ll bow my head and remember the men and women who have given their lives to this nation in war.

No one will make me do it. I will do it willingly and gladly, because thanks to them, my family and I are safe and free.

In fact, they gave up their lives to make sure we stayed safe and free.

So what’s with the Ipsos-Reid poll finding that 70 per cent of Canadians believe two minutes of silence should be compulsory on Remembrance Day? Six of 10 even believe the compulsory silence should be extended to transit and automobiles.

Mandatory. Compulsory.

Those are exactly the words our troops fight against. Then: Hitler’s murderous mandatory and compulsory obsessions. Now: The Taliban’s hyped up and just as deadly version of mandatory and compulsory. Our troops fight for freedom from totalitarian obsessions. And yet, nearly three out of four Canadians, meaning well, think it’s a good idea for the government to force us to bow our heads and be quiet, if only for two minutes.

I understand where this idea comes from: We’re worried that as a nation and a people, we’ll forget.

Yet by yearning for a compulsory two minutes of silence, we’re already forgetting.

I wonder if we are ever going to get it. “It” is that freedom is the key to all human rights. If I don’t feel like bowing my head or I feel like raising my fist in the air as a sign of my resistance against the war in Afghanistan, men and women died for my right to do so.

As it happens, as much as I deplore the Afghan war as an exercise in misguided American zeal, I honour the sacrifice of the 133 Canadian men and women who died trying to bring a better life to the Afghans who have been brutally oppressed by the Taliban.

And I can’t see how the dead are honoured by a mandatory requirement for solemnity, no matter how well-intended. In fact, it helps to see through the trappings of Remembrance Day to the hard-core meaning of the war for freedom, as today that precious commodity continues to erode both here and abroad.

Civil disobedience, as annoying as it can be, is the acid test of freedom, and that’s one of the things I’ll remember today at 11 a.m. as I bow my head.

 
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